"In my younger and more vulnerable years," when I was actively seeking to build my comic book collection (as opposed to merely maintain it), I used to say that I collected in two directions at once. By that I meant that I not only collected from the present forward, but from the present back. By the time I got to college, I built my collection in three directions, including from the beginning forward. (NOTE: I included Marvel Tales and Marvel's Greatest Comics as collecting "from the beginning.") My "Doctor Strange" collection was all over the place due to multiple stops and starts.
After sharing Strange Tales, first with the Human Torch, then Nick Fury, Doctor Strange spun off into his own solo title. When that was cancelled, he returned, after a period of three years, to his own ongoing solo feature in Marvel Premiere, which eventually spun off into a second eponymous solo series. My collection at the time comprised various issues of all these series and, by the time I left college, I was just beginning to focus on his first solo series starting with issue #169. That issue is a good jumping on point, expanding as it does, on his origin story from Strange Tales #115. That's where I'm going to begin this discussion, but first I'd like to take a look at the issues I'll be skipping over.
For one thing, I'll be skipping the entire Lee/Ditko run. Blasphemy, I know, but I have a couple of reasons for doing so. First, I've already read and discussed it so many times I'm eager to get on to something else. the second reason will become obvious as I go along. But there's good news! the entire Lee/Ditko run is now available in a single MONSTER-SIZE volume. There has never been a better format in which to appreciate this classic run, not even Marvel Masterworks. Speaking of which, volume two comprises the last six Ditko issues, followed by runs by Bill Everett, Marie Severin and Dan Adkins. Stan Lee left with Strange Tales #157, and by Doctor Strange #169, Roy Thomas had joined Dan Adkins.
And that brings us up to Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange Vol. 3
#19: After Englehart's abrupt departure, Dr. Strange immediately reverts to bi-monthly status. Marv Wolfman became the new writer (and Alfredo Alcala the guest artist), perhaps because of the recent Dr. Strange/ Dracula crossover. It was not uncommon in those days for a title to be reassigned to a writer who had no idea the direction the previous writer had planned to resolve the conflict,. Wolfman did an admirable job tying up Englehart's storyline, but obviously not in the way Englehart would have done it. Englehart was working on something which would tie to the American Bi-Centennial, but Wolfman chose a different path. As it stands, I deem Jack Kirby's "Mad Bomb" storyline to be Marvel's definitive Bi-Centennial epic.
Wolfman's story focused more on Clea's infatuation with Ben Franklin. Also, he reintroduced the now-one-with-the-universe Ancient One. Obviously, I was mistaken in my impression that once he was dead he was gone for good. It's something like when Obi Kenobi was killed in Star Wars, yet still made cameo appearances in the next two films. In this case, the ancient One demotes Dr. strange from "Sorceror Supreme" to "Master of the Mystic Arts" because reasons. Is this also when Doc lost his immortality? Perhaps. (It's kind of a Mopee.) Ahead...
#20 - Marv Wolfman / Rudy Nebres
Annual #1 - P. Craig Russell
#21 - (reprint)
#22 - Marv Wolfman / Rudy Nebres
#20: This is really the "first" Wolfman issue as #19 was spent tying up Englehart's plot threads. Wolfman continues the threat of Xander, actually introduced in #19. An amnesiac Clea runs afoul of the law. the story continues in the first annual.
ANNUAL #1: Marv Wolfman is credited with co-plot and script despite this obviously being a P. Craig Russell story. A few pages at the beginning which serve as a bridge from #20 obviously account for the "co-plot" credit. Art-wise, it is the most distinctive since Barry Smith... perhaps since Ditko himself. the story takes place on "Phasewolrd" and involves the sisters Lectra and Phaydra. If "no one can draw other dimensions like Ditko," no one can draw them like P. Craig Russell, either.
#21-22: The cover of #22 illustrates what will be the contents of #23 but is, as I mentioned above, a reprint. #23 reunites Doc with Clea and resolves that sub-plot, plus foreshadows Apalla, Queen of the Sun. Thus, although Marv Wolfman will write one additional issue, the brief, transitional run of Wolfman and Nebres, as well as MMW v6, comes to an end.
MMW v7 (#23-37): As I indicated in the initial post to this thread, when I abandoned actively collecting/accumulating backissues, I was left with several holes in my Doctor Strange collection. Consequently, I am reading many of the issues in this volume for the first time, but I am discovering that many of the issues in this collection I wouldn't have cared for all that much had I acquired them years ago. I have concluded that I have an innate sense of what I will like.
this volume is largely (but by no means entirely) representative of the work of writer Roger Stern and artist Tom Sutton, but it also includes the work of a half-dozen editors, five writers and over a dozen (!) artists. for example, Jim Starlin illustrated one (written by Marv Wolfman), wrote two (illustrated by Al Milgrom) and wrote and illustrated another. I'm a big Starlin fan but I've never read these before, nor do I feel I've missed out on anything. I'm going to have to give up my phrase "Only the Ancient One dies forever!" (a replacement for "Only Bucky dies forever!") because he "returns" here for a three-issue run.
The most "Marvel Universe" issue in this collection (one of the few I did buy decades ago) is #29, which features Doc's fellow Defender Nighthawk. This particular issue touches on Avengers, Defenders and Daredevil continuity (including the Black Knight and Thanos). Stern's script calls for the Beast to appear in three panels, but Sutton drew the pre-Amazing Adventures (i.e., non-furry) version. This is odd because Tom Sutton himself drew the story in which Hank McCoy transformed. According to Stern's introduction, George Perez happened to be in the Marvel bullpen when the penciled pages arrived, and he simply erased Sutton's figures and redrew them. (You could probably win a few bar bets with this information concerning the first Stern/Perez collaboration the next time you're at ComiCon.)
Three other issues I bought in the "long, long ago" are #35-37, all written by Roger Stern, #35 drawn by Tom Sutton, #36-37 by Gene Colan. I originally bought these to follow the story of the Black Knight, but not much happens apart from the possession of his shattered stone remains are passed from the Avengers back to Dr. Strange.* Interestingly, Roger Stern incorporated two Gardner Fox characters (from Chamber of Chills #3-4) into this three-part story. Fortunately, MMW editor Cory Sedlmeier saw fit to include these stories in the volume or I never would have been able to read them.
*Honestly, I never really thought much of of these three stories, but now I know that Stern not only advanced the story of the Black Knight, but also tied up a long-running plot-thread form Dr. Strange and incorporated plot elements from two Gardner Fox short stories. Plus it's on glossy paper stock!
Re. "The Girl Who Cast No Shadow", Fox had used the missing shadow element previously in Showcase #61, featuring the Spectre.
The statue of the demon was perhaps inspired by the statue of Pazuzu from The Exorcist. But it would have to be the book rather than the film, as Chamber of Chills #3 predated the latter by a year.
Famous stories involving missing shadows include the 1814 novella Peter Schlemihl and the opera Die Frau ohne Schatten.